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Taylor Coffman on why she wrote “Ditch” for Mutineer Theatre Co.

January 26, 2010

It’s one thing to hear about a play. It’s another to know something about the director or playwright.

I asked Taylor Coffman of Los Angeles why she wrote ‘Ditch’.

I think the original inspiration came while reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I thought to myself, here we are over a hundred years later and we’re falling in the same traps and getting in our own way time and time again.

I began the first draft in college. That’s where I got the seed of the idea for how the play would work and the overall concept. I really wanted to write a truthful story about love and self that was both fun and spoke to us all. I am fascinated by how people “work.” I guess that’s part of why I became an actor. I find the human inner conflict to be incredibly fascinating and I wanted to explore this. In some ways, it’s about the stuff I struggle with personally all the time. They say “write what you know” and I know what it’s like to be pissed at myself all the time… just kidding. Not really.

And as drafts were read by friends and colleagues over time it was fascinating to see how many others shared in the same inner conflicts. There was a lot of “Oh, I’ve been there” or “Yep I have had that conversation.” And that became one of the focuses as time went on.

Otherwise, it’s very much simply a story of love and how complicated that can get… we’re all wired in different ways and sometimes that makes love difficult.

What challenges did you face during the process from idea to fully realized script?

Well, the first draft actually came out of me fairly easily. Dialogue is something I really enjoy writing. As an actor, it’s as if I am suddenly improvising all the roles in my head and then I type it out on to the computer. I’ve realized I can churn out dialogue pretty quickly. The overall structure has been much more of a creative challenge. The basic challenge of wondering how is the BEST way to tell the story I want to tell. Even though the first draft was written in college, I really picked it up after a reading a few years ago. Since then it’s undergone many structural changes. Many scenes remain very similar to the first draft, but it’s deeper and richer. One reason is my own personal life path and growth.

Let’s face it, I only knew so much as a 21 year old. Otherwise, I credit the workshopping process with the Mutineers. Plays on paper are just theories. You really don’t know if they work until you hear them and see them in life. Jon [Cohn, founding artistic director] and the MTC team really gave me the support and enthusiasm to keep digging and make the piece what it is today. I think it’s pretty special and it’s really amazing to see the team excited about it too. 

You’re an actress – why did you choose not to be cast in Ditch?

 This is a funny question. In some ways it wasn’t even a consideration. I originally imagined myself in the role of Beth years ago. Maybe one day, but I don’t think it would have served the play to be in it this time around. But it’s clear in the development process, you can’t see the big picture if you are so focused on one character. At least for me. When I am actor, I am SO focused on the character. I really did need to be able to sit back, watch, and listen to be able to do my job. Plus Amber and Nina are amazing. I can’t imagine this production without them. They are so suited to these characters it’s strangely perfect.

“Ditch” opens this weekend at the Lounge Theatre. For ticket information and times, visit Mutineer Theatre Company.

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